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‘Why New Supreme Court Justices can’t resume now’

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In this report, Vanguard’s Law & Human Rights digs out factors responsible for the delay in the inauguration of 11 new justices of the Supreme Court almost two full months after the Nigerian Senate had confirmed their appointment.

Background

On December 21, 2023, the Nigerian Senate approved a list of 11 new justices for the Supreme Court of Nigeria, SCN.

The senators had cleared the justices at the plenary through a voice vote after the Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Mohammed Monguno (APC, Borno), reported that his committee received the curriculum vitae of the nominees, invited them for screening and found that they demonstrated inspiring competence required for the performance of their assignment.

Monguno also noted that the nomination and appointment satisfied the constitutional provision of section 231 (3) of the Constitution which states that an individual needs 15 years experience in the bar to be qualified for appointment into the Supreme Court bench.

He said there were no petitions or criminal records against any of the nominees and that the committee members were satisfied with the nomination of the justices and, therefore, recommended their confirmation.

The list of the justices was sent to the upper chamber of the National Assembly by President Bola Tinubu following recommendation of the candidates by the National Judicial Council, NJC from the shortlist received from the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC for the top job.

On the recommended list were Haruna Tsammani representing the North-East; Moore Adumein (South- South); Jummai Sankey (North-Central); Chidiebere Uwa (South-East); Chioma Nwosu-Iheme (South-East) and Obande Ogbuinya (South-East).

Others were Justices Stephen Jona Adah (North-Central); Habeeb Abiru (South-West); Jamilu Tukur (North- West); Abubakar Umar (North-West);  and Mohammed Idris (North-Central).

Section 231 (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria spells out the process of appointing justices for the SCN.

The section provides: “The appointment of a person to the office of a Justice of the Supreme Court shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the NJC, subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate.

By implication, both the executive and the legislature play distinct roles in appointing justices for the apex bench.

The appointment process into the Supreme Court bench would be inchoate until the two other arms of government have fully played their roles as spelt out in the constitution.

But almost two months after the justices were cleared by the Senate and more than two years when the Supreme Court has been itching to get more competent hands to fill vacant seats in the court, the 11 new justices are yet to be inaugurated.

The Supreme Court has kept mum on the issue ditto for the Presidency in spite of the alarm raised by a retiring justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Dattijo Muhammad on October 27, 2023, in Abuja that with his exit, the number of justices serving in the apex court had dropped to 10, its lowest in the contemporary history of the court.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola had himself consistently lamented that the apex court has been battling with workload crisis arising from manpower shortage, explaining that the situation gets worse for the third arm of government because in every little disagreement, Nigerians rushed to court and in every lost case, they rushed to appeal even up to the Supreme Court, no matter how little the issue might be.

He had said that alone had obviously accounted for the several appeals pending in the Supreme Court, adding that though the court received scathing criticisms from members of the public over its over-bloated docket, yet the institution is neither in any position to regulate case inflow to the court nor has the supernatural powers to attend to all in one-fell-swoop.

What is delaying the inauguration of the 11 new justices?

Vanguard’s Law & Human Rights’ investigation revealed that the 11 new justices are yet to be inaugurated simply because the Supreme Court was having challenges providing them with the required working tools.

According to an impeccable source at the Supreme Court who spoke with Vanguard on condition of anonymity, the justices’ inauguration was deliberately delayed.

His words: “You were aware some justices of the Supreme Court were sworn in on November 6, 2020. As tradition demanded, they were supposed to be given three assorted brand new cars each: A Mercedes Benz, a Land Cruiser and one utility vehicle.

“But at that time, the justices of the Supreme Court were given only a Land Cruiser which some critics said were refurbished. A Hilux was added after one year while the Mercedez Benz was late in coming. Because of the breach of that tradition, hell was let loose.

“We want to avoid such unnecessary bad image for the Supreme Court this time around. What is sure is that the justices have been appointed already. The Senate has given approval. That approval cannot be withdrawn.

“All that is left now is for necessary working tools to be provided. We do not want to inaugurate them without providing the necessary things that may attract bad press for the institution,” the source added.

The source also told Vanguard that apart from the issue of cars, accommodation was another.

“You will agree with me that the issue of accommodation for serving justices of the Supreme Court has been a recurring challenge.

“This is the first time we are having a full complement of 21 justices. They can’t live in the air. They must be made comfortable. The Supreme Court will have to acquire apartments for them.

“I can confirm to you that the Supreme Court has gone far. But the court is yet to get comfortable accommodation for all of them.

“Until that one is sorted out, they may have to tarry,” he said.

Another source and member of the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, who also pleaded anonymity, told Vanguard Law and Human Rights that the affected new justices have been asked to use the opportunity of the delay in inaugurating them to quickly conclude all outstanding cases they have at the Court of Appeal on the account that they would not have the opportunity of going back to sit on such cases as justices of the Court of Appeal.

The source reminded Vanguard of what happened sometime in May 2020 when the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision by a seven-man panel of Justices led by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour (now retired), nullified the entire proceedings that led to the conviction of a federal lawmaker representing Abia North Senatorial District, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, his company—Slok, and a former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu, for allegedly using the firm to defraud the Government of Abia State in the eight years Kalu held sway as governor of the state.

Vanguard indeed recalled that the Supreme Court had in the lead verdict that was read by Justice Ejembi Eko, held that the trial High Court Judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, acted without jurisdiction in the case when he convicted Kalu, his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and a former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu since he was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as at December 5, 2019, when he sat and delivered the judgement that convicted the defendants for allegedly stealing about N7.1billion from Abia State treasury.

According to the Supreme Court, Justice Idris, having been elevated to the Court of Appeal before then, lacked the powers to return to sit as a High Court Judge.

It held that the Fiat that was issued to him by the Court of Appeal President pursuant to section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, was unconstitutional.

The apex court held that no statute in Nigeria empowered the Court of Appeal President to give vires to a Justice of the appellate court to return to the High Court to deliver judgement in a pending criminal trial, stressing that the Court of Appeal President, “acted ultra-vires his powers when she purportedly gave the authorisation” with respect to Kalu’s case.

But the source hinted that the 11 new justices of the Supreme Court would be inaugurated very soon as their services are very much required at the apex court.

S’Court to get full complement of 21 justices for the first time since 1999

Hopefully, when the justices resume office by the end of the month, the Supreme Court would have a full complement of 21 justices for the first time since 1999 with five representing the North-West; four of the justices representing the South-West geo-political zone of the country, three representing the South-East, another three representing the North-East, three others representing the South- South, and the remaining three representing the North-Central.

Whereas, Section 230 (2) of the 1999 Constitution allows the sitting President to appoint a Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN and other justices of the Supreme Court not exceeding 21, the highest number of justices appointed to the Supreme Court ever was 20 since the constitution was promulgated into law.

Specifically, that history was made on November 6, 2020 when eight (8) newly appointed Justices of the Supreme Court were sworn into office, upping its membership from 12 to 20.

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Speaker Abbas mourns Ogbonnaya Onu

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By Gloria Ikibah
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Abbas Tajudeen, has expressed sadness over the death of Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, one of the founding fathers of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who died on Thursday.
Chief Onu, who was the first civilian governor of Abia State, served as the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari. He was aged 72.
Speaker Abbas, in his condolence message through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Musa Abdullahi Krishi, described the late Onu as a brilliant scholar, excellent engineer, disciplined politician and an elder statesman, whose passion for democracy and good governance was immeasurable.
The Speaker recalled how Chief Onu, as the national chairman of the defunct All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), worked with leaders of other progressive legacy political parties to form the APC, with the aim of changing the country for the better.
Speaker Abbas commiserated with the Onu family, the people, and governments of Ebonyi and Abia States, while praying to God to grant him eternal rest.
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Hospital detains my wife, newborn triplets over unpaid bills – Physically–challenged photographer cries out

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My name is Maxwell Matthew. I was born in 1992. I am from Kogi State but I have lived in Edo State since childhood. I studied Biochemistry at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, in the state. Before that, I ran a national diploma in Science Laboratory Technology at the Auchi Polytechnic, Auchi. I have been a photographer right from my secondary school days. I am married and live in Benin City with my wife. I am the first child of my family.

Were you born disabled?

No, I have not always been disabled. In 2014, I was involved in an accident when I was on my to cover a wedding in Benue State, and that was how I became disabled.

How has it been for you since then?

That year when I had that accident, I was about to enter the major seminary of the Catholic Church. So, I was in the hospital for almost a year. In 2015, I decided not to go back to the seminary because I was in a wheelchair.

All through the time I was in the hospital, I was confined to a wheelchair. I had to reach out to my catholic priest and tell him of my condition.

I told him that even if I were then on a wheelchair, I would love to go back to school. I had to sit the United Tertiary Matriculation Examination all over. I wrote the exam in a wheelchair. I also sat the Post-UTME and passed both. That was how I got admitted to study Biochemistry at AAU.

After a while, I started using a walker, the one that has four legs, to move. After a while, I was asked to start using crutches. So, from my 200 level to my final year, I was using crutches, and have been using them ever since.

What spurred you to continue schooling despite the disability?

I don’t want to be seen as a liability. I don’t want to have to beg to eat or be seen as a beggar simply because I have a disability.

I want to fulfill my destiny, and my life does not lie on my leg that was cut off. Whenever I go to the hospital, I always tell the nurses to stop telling me sorry because my head was not cut off.

If it was my head was cut off, then I would know that life is over. But, I am still alive. That means there is hope. I want to fulfill the destiny that God kept for me.

Education is part of the process that refines us to become who God wants us to become. I am the first child of my family, and I want to also be a role model to other of my siblings; because I feel that, if I give up now, it will affect my younger ones and those who are looking up to me.

This is why I decided to pick up the mess I found myself in and turn it into a message to the world so that the world would see that disability is not inability.

This was also why I reached out to my reverend father and he encouraged me to go back to school. He also supported me financially and morally. He was the one who bought my first JAMB form for me.

What are the difficulties you’ve faced so far?

The difficulties I faced, most especially during school days were the accessibility to the lecture rooms and the distance. It was not easy for me.

God helped me through, and a lot of people were involved in assisting me. My coursemates were nice to me and there for me. They helped me and assisted me in a way they could.

Was there any time you felt discriminated against?

Yes, of course. Discrimination has become part of me. A physically challenged person or a person living with a disability would always receive discrimination from one or two people in the community. Although we have loving people, who are always there to show us love, there are many good people out there who are ready to assist us.

Recently, I went to a particular church for a programme and I was asked to drop my crutches on the floor. They warned me never to put my crutches on the chair but on the floor. It got me so saddened. I looked at the usher in disbelief. I kept asking myself why an usher in the house of God would treat me like that. Those crutches are my legs; why should I drop them on the floor?

The pastor, who did not know what was going on, picked up the microphone and expressed anger. He wondered why I would be arguing with the ushers and disturbing the church. I was so embarrassed that day that I felt like the ground should open up and swallow me. I eventually walked out of the church feeling down, bad, angry, and deeply embarrassed.

There are always people who discriminate against me, even when I am trying to enter a public vehicle and some public places. As we receive warm welcomes sometimes, we also receive not-so-good ones at other times.

Some people don’t treat us well. I wouldn’t say because some people are not treating us well, we shouldn’t talk about those empathise with us.

Even during my service year, it was a wonderful experience, from my service to my PPA, God has always placed wonderful people on my way and I enjoyed my service year.

Where did you serve?

I served in the Edo State House of Assembly in Benin, and from 2022 to 2023; I was attached to the House of Assembly.

Did you get support from family?

My parents have been so wonderful. They always want to see me happy. I do not have anything to regret. My siblings, my friends, and especially two of my friends that I met at Auchi Polytechnic, have all been there for me.

How did you meet your wife?

Hmm… It’s been a wonderful experience getting married to my wife. I had known her from our secondary school days, but we were just distant friends. We didn’t live close to each other.

Funnily enough, she was a junior student in my secondary school. But, somehow, when she was serving, I was in my 300 level. One day, she reached out to me after she heard about my accident, and empathised with me. Apparently, since the accident, she had not been able to reach out to me.

So, she said that she would come to visit me. She asked me for my address and I sent it to her. So, when she got to Benin, I went to pick her up from a popular junction. When she saw me, she was shocked because she never knew how bad my accident was. We both went to the office where I was doing my internship. We spent the day together and she left.

We kept communicating until we fell in love. It was clear that we were both interested in each other.

At that time, a catholic priest encouraged me to settle down with a good lady. Then, I didn’t know how to go about it. He advised me to check amongst my friends and look for a good lady.

So, one day, I called my father and told him that there was a female friend of mine who came around and we used to know each other from secondary school. My father encouraged me to talk to her, so I later opened up to her.

What was her reaction when you told her?

It was like the same thing that was on her mind because there was no rejection or a no from her. It was as if she was expecting it.

What was the reaction of her family?

The truth is that, from the very first day, there was no discrimination, I was warmly welcomed by her dad and mum, and then I left.

It was after I left that I learnt that some distant relations, not the immediate family, started questioning my wife’s parents on why they would allow their daughter to marry a man with a disability.

You know there will always be bad eggs in the family. The tussle lasted for some months, but the parents stood their ground that since the daughter said it was me she wanted, they were going to support her.

The father called me and said I should bring my family to do the right thing. They also said they were not expecting a big wedding. They encouraged me to come with whatever I could afford and do the traditional marriage.

What year did you get married?

We got married in 2022 and we just gave birth to triplets. They were born on Good Friday.

So what was that thing that attracted you to your wife?

I will tell you that discipline is one of the core values that I saw in her. She is well-trained and an easygoing person. Then, we share the same ideologies. When you meet a real friend, you won’t have difficulty getting along with such a person.

She is not just my wife but she is my friend and sister. To date, she doesn’t look at my weaknesses or disability; she only concentrates on my ability. She became a good photographer because she was ready to learn.

When she told me she wanted to go and learn photography, I asked her if she wanted to learn because I am also a photographer, and she said no. Today, she is a good photographer and even better than I am.

Where is she from and how old is she?

She is from Isoko-North LGA in Delta State and I am a year older than her.

How did you feel when you heard about the news of the arrival of your triplets?

It was a mixed feeling, A few months into her pregnancy; we discovered that she was carrying triplets. I saw it as a challenge. I always had this feeling that whatever came my way, I could handle; not because I had the resources at hand but because God made it to come my way. That means God wants me to face it.

So, when I received the news, I was excited and joyful. At the same time, I began to wonder how I was going to survive in the economic situation. I am not that stable with my photographer. I just rounded off my national service. I don’t have a job that can sustain me and the family yet.

But, my wife has been a wonderful woman, very contented and managing what we have. She doesn’t complain or put pressure on me. She is a very strong woman who believes in me and that I can take care of her with the little I have, she never felt discouraged.

Since she gave birth on a Good Friday, she has been in the hospital with our triplets.

Why hasn’t she been discharged?

We’ve not completed our payments. The first bill we received was N455,000. I begged the doctor to reduce the money, explaining my condition, but there was no consideration.

I was only able to deposit N156,000. After some time, they brought another bill again, and up till now, my wife and triplets are still in the hospital.

So now, we still owe them close to N400,000 but I wouldn’t know what the next bill would be like including payment for the days they’ve been spending in the hospital.

I need good Nigerians to help me get a good job because if we can find our way to bring them out of the hospital, I need to take care of them and I wouldn’t want to keep managing terribly.

The mother and the babies have been in the hospital for more than two weeks now. They are in the Intensive Care Unit and are currently on oxygen because they are preterm babies kept in the incubator.

We need financial assistance to be able to take care of the children as I am not buoyant enough; I also need an artificial limb for easy movement.

Do you have a child before the triplets?

Yes, we have a son. The triplets are two boys and a girl. So, we have three boys and one girl in total.

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Just in: Fleeing Binance Executive, Anjarwalla Found In Kenya

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Nigerian government says Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, who escaped custody in Nigeria, has been found in Kenya.

A source in the presidency, who preferred anonymity, confirmed the development as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the International Criminal Police, the Nigeria Police Force, and the Kenyan Police Service have deepened talks to quicken Anjarwalla’s extradition.

“We know where he is. He is in Kenya, and we’re working with the authorities to bring him back to Nigeria”, the source said.

The EFCC chairman, Ola Olukuyede, last month, in a statement, stressed that the commission is collaborating with INTERPOL, the US, UK, Northern Ireland and Kenyan authorities to extradite Anjarwalla, who has been on the run.

The commission had instituted five-count charges bordering on tax evasion, currency speculation and money laundering against Binance Holdings Limited, Tigran Gambaryan and Anjarwalla, the firm’s executives.

EFCC arraigned Binance and the two executives on Thursday, April 4, 2024.

Recall that Anjarwalla escaped from custody on March 22 and has been at large since then.

Meanwhile, the government confirmed that EFCC had fully taken over the case of Binance from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA.

For months, the Nigerian government sustained its crackdown on Binance over its role in manipulating the country’s Foreign exchange market.

During the 293rd meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee, MPC, in February, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, had said that more than $26 billion had been funnelled through Binance without a trace.

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